At the beginning of the 20th Century women across Europe and America were finding their voice. That wanted and demanded decent jobs, better pay, and the right to vote or hold public offices, for their emancipation. It was out of this air of dissatisfaction that International Women's Day was born. Founded more than a hundred years ago to celebrate the battles at the forefront of gender equality. In 1910 at the Second International, a world wide socialist congress, German Socialist Clara Zetkin proclaimed International Women's day to commemorate the US demonstrators ( garment workers who had marched and picketed demanding improved working conditions and a 8 hour day) whose ranks were broken up by the police, and honour working women the world over. A day then for the world to celebrate the social, political and other acheivements of women. A day to recognise the oppression that still flourishes, caused by both capitalism and patriarchy. An unfortunate and undeniable reality for the majority of women today.The fight for womens rights might looks a little different today, but our sisters are still facing discrimination and injustices across the globe.
In recent times, issues of women's political influence and economic equality have been joined by broader struggles against, racism, war, violence, environmental destruction, and other forms of oppression for peace and social justice and is now often spread into a whole week of activities.
Time to celebrate the gains women have made and to keep on calling for the changes that are still very much needed. Women are still not equally represented in business or politics, girls facing sexual objectification from an early age, girls told to shrink themselves make themselves smaller. Women still forced to flee domestic abuse, others facing honour killing, a practice that allows family members to murder women for dishonouring their families, by refusing arranged marriages, removing their faith or for simply dressing in ways considered inappropriate. I also note that the basic needs of most Palestinian women are daily being violated by Israels's ongoing occupation and seige. The siege in Gaza a contributing factor in one fifth of maternal deaths in Gaza.
Yet contrary to Orientalist misrepresentation, women have been at the heart of liberation struggles in the Middle East and North Africa. At the moment in the region of Turkey and Kurdistan women are being politicised in a long struggle against theocratic totalitarianism, inspiring us in their fight for emancipation and freedom.
So today as I observe International Womens Day, I stand up for all women still trapped by injustices, still suffering from abuse, at the end of the day I believe the women's struggle is a struggle for the freedom of all people, recuperating the fair value of people over things. I recognise the practice and theory of mutual support that women have laid, that are the foundations of social change that we must keep building. Women who recognised the tactical necessity of standing and working together, lest they be destroyed individually, women who put to shame the ridiculous notion of a 'women's place. Their struggle is ours too. I acknowledge all those who have been persecuted, jailed, tortured, simply for being a woman. Especially those who are among the most vulnerable in this present moment of time - the refugees.
Sisters solidarity, today and everyday. Let this day be one of hope and peace.
" Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and it is perhaps, the most pervasive. It knows no boundaries of geography, culture or wealth. As long as it continues, we cannot claim to be making real progress, towards equality, development and peace."
- Gen Secretary of the UN - Koffi Annan
oh and as Emma Goldman pointed out :-
" The most violent element in society is ignorance."